Sunday, October 16, 2005


I arrived last night in Fethiye, a beautiful town caught between the Mediterranean and the Twilight Zone. Maybe it's something in the water; the entire town - Turk and tourist alike - seems a bit stoned. It's like being at a party where you are the only sober one, and you can't place just what drug everyone else is on.

I went to the Selcuk bus station at 10, and was surprised to see dozens of other travellers. I guess I wasn't the only one here not on a package tour. I asked around, and everyone had had the same experience of being one of the only ones in their hotel or pension. Some turned out to be cool & interesting. Some turned out to be total wankers. I know it's been said before, but let me add to the chorus: other Westerners need to stop talking about the Ugly American. We've got company. My favorite was the Aussie [from Brisbane, if that explains it] who was shocked that the workers on the bus didn't speak English. Can you believe it? He would ask, rolling his eyes. They don't speak a word!

I was a good boy and kept my mouth shut.

The bus trip was pleasant. Civilized, even. The seats are wide, and recline far enough back to sleep. Boys go up and down the aisle, serving coffee and offering perfumed oils for us to wash our hands and faces with. This seems to be a custom everywhere - restaurants and hamams do the same when you leave. It's nice. And the bus is far more comfortable than bus/train/plane in the States. Lucky for us, because the 'four hour trip' [tm Lonley Planet] took seven hours. We passed through some beautiful country - wide valleys, pine forests, covered granite mountains, semi-desert hill country, and, finally, the Mediterranean coast. I think the whole bus gasped when we went through a mountain pass and saw the sea a thousand feet below us.

Fethiye is by far the prettiest town I've seen here. It's set deep in a bay, and a large island blocks the mouth - keeping the waters in town as still as a mirror. There are hundreds of yachts, sailboats, and gulets [traditional boats] along the shore. Mountains push down almost to the coast, leaving only a thin strip for development. The town itself has it all: high class to low end to down and out, all pushed into this narrow strip of land. The air is thick with jasmine. It's a bit like Waikiki, if Waikiki had better architecture and no cars. The central area is a pedestrian bazaar, with streets dedicated to gold, leather, carpets, food, clubs, or carpets.

So ... pretty pretty pretty. But I just can't tell what's going on here. I got to my pension, was given apple tea, and abandonned in the lobby. A Kiwi later came and crashed on the couch beside me. I asked where the owners went. He didn't know, but said it was just like that here. Across the lobby two Aussies were struggling with a water pipe. Some Turkish women were gossiping over tea and cigarettes in another corner. I finally found the owner, and got my room. They never did take down my name. It was similar at the hamam - I entered the sauna, and was alone for close to twenty minutes. I wasn't quite sure what to do. The downside of bluffing like you know what you're doing is that, sometimes, people actually believe you & you find yourself on your own. The masseur finally came in, and ordered me onto the marble dais. The water wasn't as scalding at this hamam, but the scrubbing and massage was much deeper. The guy basically tossed me around like a rag doll, all the while scraping the top layer of skin off my body. It felt good.

Dinner was Urfa Kebab at a Berber restaurant. I need to google that one - I knew how to ask what it was [Bu ne urfa?]. Too bad the answer was urfa is urfa. Since I know the words for chicken, beef, lamb, and fish - and none are urfa - I'm not sure exactly what I ate. It was pungent, whatever it was. The Brit next to me was no help. He's been here 18 months and doesn't and only seems to know the way to the bar and the disco. I was tempted to join him until I met his wife and her friend - ragged creatures in frightening eye makeup. You know that chick from the Drew Carey Show who had the insane eye shadow? British chicks really make themselves up like that.

I'm off today to see the International Paragliding Championships at Oludeniz. I plan on staying on the ground.

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